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Water for all: young Christians study water advocacy

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  • Rev Fr John Brian
    WATER FOR ALL: YOUNG CHRISTIANS STUDY DEFENSE OF THIS PRECIOUS RESOURCE By Annegret Kapp (*) Free photos available, see below Water has no colour, no race, no
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 12, 2008

      By Annegret Kapp (*)
      Free photos available, see below

      "Water has no colour, no race, no nationality, it is the same all over the
      world," according to Rania Flavie Tourma, an Orthodox Christian from Syria.
      So to her, it was perfectly natural that people from around the world
      gathered near Geneva, Switzerland at the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN)
      Summer School on Water to unite in defense of this natural resource.

      While water is vital for all, Tourma and others attending this unique summer
      school know all too well that access to water, and the awareness of how
      precious it is, could hardly be more unequally distributed. As Christians,
      the 22 young men and women who met at the World Council of Churches (WCC)
      Ecumenical Institute in Bossey for eight days of intense learning about
      water issues feel compelled to speak out against this injustice.

      Their professional backgrounds were as diverse as the 18 countries and six
      different continents they came from. Their presentations on water issues in
      their countries really complemented the lectures by international experts on
      water management, advocacy and development.

      Summer school student Roderick Chukwuemeka Oji from Nigeria started his
      presentation holding up a small plastic pouch of water which is sold on the
      streets of Lagos for five Naira, less then five cents US. "In my country, we
      call this pure water," he said.

      However, the content of these packets is far from safe to drink, the law
      student and Presbyterian youth leader explained. All too often the water
      that is sealed in this transparent plastic comes from an uncontrolled source
      and bears a made-up license number. No wonder the elites prefer bottled
      water from abroad, he said.

      Oji was not the only one who reported on poor drinking water supplies in a
      country blessed with rivers and abundant rain. Participants from Rwanda,
      Honduras, Armenia and Lesotho all spoke of the unequal distribution of a
      resource that is not so scarce.

      Another student, Packiaraj Asirvatham from India, told of an apparently
      successful campaign four years ago in which several thousand local people
      rallied against the construction of a soft drinks factory in Gangaikondan,
      India, which was going to take unsustainable amounts of water out of a river
      which the whole district relied on.

      While the campaign was successful at the time, the 27-year-old pastor of the
      Church of South India warned that vigilance remained necessary even after
      what seemed like a victory. Just a few days before leaving to attend the
      ecumenical summer school he had returned to Gangaikondan only to find that
      the bottling unit was now up and running.

      Lead role for youth

      Youth have an important role to play in the preservation of water according
      to Oji. The more established leaders, even within the church, often do not
      address these issues.

      Lilit Babajanyan from Armenia added that if she wanted to do something to
      counterbalance the political influence of rich landowners in the fight over
      Armenia's Lake Sevan the best starting point for her was her personal
      network of friends - a group of young Christians.

      When the concern for creation brings together Christians aged 20 to 30, they
      will of course not limit themselves to academic exercises. In between
      sessions they shared about their homes and cultures and taught each other
      songs from their home churches.

      The drawings and hip-hop lyrics posted on the Ecumenical Water Network's
      summer blog <http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=6116> also bear witness to their
      creative talents.

      Creativity was one of the criteria for choosing candidates for the summer
      school because of its value in bringing to life powerful biblical stories
      about Christ's promise of justice and the "living water" of faith.

      "How can Americans hold water as sacred when it is wasted away every day?"
      Kelly Forbush, a theology student from the United Church of Christ in the
      USA, wrote in a blog entry about her reflections from one of the morning
      Bible studies. "Water comes in such abundance in America - almost all people
      can receive clean water anytime they want."

      One possible answer to Forbush's question came through the water-themed
      worship service which the summer school participants prepared for the
      Lutheran congregation of Geneva. With prayer, songs and acting the service
      created links between the biblical imagery of the "living water" and the
      modern day reality of many people not having access to water.

      The first generation of summer school "alumni", whether they came from the
      privileged regions of North America and Europe, where a constant supply of
      clean water is taken for granted, or whether they are faced with its
      scarcity in their every day lives, will not forget the need for water is
      shared by all.

      And they will not keep to themselves the realization that consumer patterns
      in their own communities - concerning energy, meat, traffic and many other
      things - affect the water supply of people living on the other side of the

      As they traveled back to their home countries in early August, some already
      had concrete ideas about how to spread what they have learned, for example
      performing plays about the water crisis in public places or beverage stores.
      Others think about organizing regional summer schools. For knowledge, just
      like faith, multiplies when it is shared.

      [859 words]

      (*) Annegret Kapp, WCC web editor, is a member of the Evangelical Church in
      Württemberg, Germany.

      More information about the Ecumenical Water Network:
      http://water.oikoumene.org <http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=5520>

      Photo gallery:
      http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=6187 <http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=6187>

      Video clips from the EWN summer school:
      http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=5520 <http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=5520>

      Listen to comments by participants of the EWN summer school (mp3 format, 3.9

      ### SIDEBAR ###

      Christians raising awareness on water

      The EWN Summer School on Water 2008 was organized by the Ecumenical Water
      Network, 28 July to 4 August, in order to educate a new generation of
      Christian leaders in awareness raising for the global water crisis.

      The participants heard from water experts with international human rights
      and development organizations about causes and consequences of the crisis as
      well as ways to tackle it. But they also learned about ways to take up the
      issue in their home churches and Christian youth networks.

      It was the first time that young Christians of different denominations
      including Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants came together for an
      international summer school on water.

      The Ecumenical Water Network is an initiative of churches, Christian
      organizations and movements working on people's access to water around the
      world and community-based solutions to the water crisis. Its objective is to
      bring forward a common Christian witness in the debate on water issues. The
      World Council of Churches hosts the network's secretariat and helps to
      facilitate cooperation among the partners involved.

      World Council of Churches - Feature
      Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@...

      For immediate release - 12/08/2008 10:37:22

      Opinions expressed in WCC Features do not necessarily reflect WCC policy.
      This material may be reprinted freely, providing credit is given to the

      Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363
      media@... <mailto:media@...>

      The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and
      service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches
      founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox,
      Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in
      over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.
      The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church
      in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.
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